cme conference 2022

News from the Rare Cancer Conference

Co-sponsored by Columbia University Irving Medical Center and The Jed Ian Taxel Foundation for Rare Cancer Research

Molecular Science is a Game-Changer for Rare Cancers

On April 26, our Rare Cancers: Unmet Medical Needs conference brought attention to the scarce resources and treatment options available to the more than 400,000 Americans diagnosed with a rare cancer each year – and to the major advancements in medical science stemming from the ability to study the genomics of every molecule in tumor tissues. This transformative research is moving from an anatomic (organ based) to molecular understanding of tumors across rare cancers. When the molecular level mechanisms that drive rare cancers are understood, there’s no stopping us. Molecular science can revolutionize the whole field of cancer medicine and bring new hope to rare cancer patients.

“We’re going to do this together. We’re going to win. We have to win.”

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Rare Cancers: Setting the Stage

Gary Schwartz, MD

Chief, Hematology and Oncology; Deputy Director, Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center Columbia Vagelos School of Medicine

Conference Co-Chair Dr. Schwartz introduced conference objectives and suggested outcomes that can accelerate discovery and move rare cancer progress forward, emphasizing “this is something we cannot lose on.”

  • Better understanding of rare cancers
  • Increase awareness that rare cancers are not “rare”
  • Best ways to identify and treat rare cancers
  • Opportunities for new drug development
  • New paradigms that allow better treatment and cures
  • Determine investments to advance the field and engage pharmaceutical and investment communities to promote new drug discovery

“There needs to be a revolution in government health agencies.”

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Advocating for Rare Cancers: Lessions Learned

Catherine G. Young, PhD

Former Executive Director, The SHEPHERD Foundation; Senior Director of Science Policy, Biden Cancer Initiative

Greg Simon, J.D.

Former President, Biden Cancer Initiative; Executive Director, White House Cancer Moonshot

Catherine Young and Greg Simon are public policy leaders and advocates for solutions to advance rare cancer research at the federal government level. They share insights into the forces within government agencies that can impede or accelerate rare cancer research. These include sustaining an entrepreneurial, accelerator-like mission at ARPA-H and increasing coverage for the evolution of cancer diagnostics and treatments from the anatomic level to the molecular so that patients can access better treatments more quickly. “Imagine the same people doing the same thing without much results … for decades,” says Dr. Simon. “It’s important for advocates like the Taxel Foundation to help others realize that they can be part of the legacy.”

Foundation Kicks Off Rare Cancer Conference

Mark Laab

Rare Cancer Research Foundation

Norman Scherzer

The Life Raft Group

Gary Schwartz

Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center

Important research and patient advocate constituencies gathered ...

The night before the conference, our foundation dinner gathered important constituencies to move rare cancer research forward: experts from medical science, government, the National Cancer Institute, private philanthropies, and aligned foundations. Speakers included Conference Co-Chair Dr. Schwartz, Mark Laab, Founder and Chairman of The Rare Cancer Research Foundation and Founder and Executive Director Norman Scherzer of The Life Raft Group who represent the type of collaborative effort we are committed to help reshape the rare cancer landscape.

Through collaboration and partnership among communities like those represented here, we can demonstrate that innovation in molecular science can and will change the outlook for rare cancers. We’re committed to help this leap into the future, for Jed’s memory and for the good of mankind.

REACT: Cutting-Edge Science on the Horizon

Ben Izar, MD

Principal Investigator, Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Columbia Center for Translational Immunology

At the foundation dinner, Dr. Ben Izar described REACT (rare tumors ecosystems single-cell analysis project), a plan to reshape the future of rare cancer treatments through collaboration with comprehensive cancer centers nationwide for a study of 1000 rare tumor tissues using cutting edge single-cell genomic analysis. This molecular-level research has the potential to inform new treatment pathways for translational and personalized medicine that will deliver life saving treatments to rare cancer patients.

Jed Ian Taxel Foundation For Rare Cancer Research

Award For Early Career Scientists

Dr. Gary Swartz with Early Career Scientists Award Winners Sara Viragova, PhD, Sminu Bose, MD, and award presenter Tiffany Taxel.

The 2022 Jed Ian Taxel Foundation for Rare Cancer Research Awards for Early Career Scientists were given to the following awardees for their presentations of original research.

1st Prize:

Sara Viragova PhD

Postdoctoral Researcher, Columbia University Medical Center

For research on inhibitors of retinoid signaling as anti-tumor agents in Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. Research paper here.

2nd Prize:

Sminu Bose MD

Oncology Fellow, Columbia University Medical Center

For research demonstrating the feasibility of implementing single-cell genomics from archival tissue to study sarcoma and propel our understanding of drug resistance. Research paper here.

3rd Prize:

Alexander Wei MD MS

Hematology & Oncology Fellow, Columbia University Medical Center

For research on the clinical and disease characteristics of metastatic uveal mela- noma patients who develop symptomatic brain metastases. Research paper here.

Meet Our Rare Cancer Conference Speakers

Adam Bass, MD

Professor of Medicine, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

Richard Carvajal, MD

Associate Professor of Medicine at CUMC; Director, Melanoma Service, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

Wendy Chung, MD, PhD

Kennedy Family Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, Chief of the Division of Clinical Genetics, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

Julia Glade Bender, MD

Vice Chair for Clinical Research, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Mark Heaney, MD

Associate Professor of Medicine at CUMC, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

Alan Ho, MD, PhD

Geoffrey Beene Junior Faculty Chair, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Andrew B. Lassman, MD

John Harris Associate Professor of Neurology; Chief, Division of Neuro-Oncology, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

Suzanne Lentzsch, MD

Professor of Medicine, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

Jason Luke, MD

Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology UPMC

Nita L. Seibel, MD

Head of the Pediatric Solid Tumor Therapeutics in the Clinical Investigations Branch of the Cancer T, National Cancer Institute

Michael A. Weiner, MD.

Professor of Pediatrics at CUMC, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons